08 July 2008

Audience is a Four-Letter Word

Used as a noun, the word audience means “The group of spectators at a public event; listeners or viewers collectively, as in attendance at a theater or concert; the persons reached by a…broadcast; public.”

I can’t stand the word “audience” when I’m talking about a company’s clients or customers. I’m not even crazy about those words, because they imply a one-way relationship. I prefer things like “community”. And I’ve caught myself using it, so I’m putting it on my list of four letter words that aren’t ok to use in business, and especially in marketing and social media. Here’s why.

Audiences are meant to listen and observe.
You go to a play or a seminar, and with the rare exception, you sit quietly and listen. The idea isn't to engage the performer or speaker, but to absorb and appreciate. That has it's place in the world, sure. But not when it comes to marketing and social media. Your community WANTS to engage with you and have the chance for exchange and conversation. It puts a human face on business and allows community members to feel like they're helping to build and steward the brands and businesses they love.

Audiences come for the performance, and usually only once.
How many times have you gone to a movie twice? A couple, perhaps, for the really incredible ones. Most times, an audience shows up, watches, goes home, and that's the end of their interaction with the performer. You want your community to be a constant - surrounding you and interacting with you, giving you feedback and connecting with you. You want them to come back, again and again, because you've given them reason to. Change your thinking from "audience" to "community", and they'll feel more welcome on your doorstep.

A bad audience review rarely changes the show.
If a broadway show gets panned, they just pull it or ride it out, but they don't rewrite it because someone didn't like it. The amazing thing about having a community is how they can - and should - help shape the ideas behind a company or product. (Stay tuned for a follow up post on great examples of this). Their engagement with you and the dialogue they welcome is gold; valuable information you can use to improve your product or service offerings based on the people who matter most - the ones that buy them!

So, I'm going to officially jettison the word "audience" from my marketing/social media lexicon. Do you agree with me? What other words do you think we need to retire or change given our interlinked and hyperlinked world?

Photo credit: Felipe Trucco
Zemanta Pixie

5 comments:

Connie Reece said...

In conference presentations I've been known to refer to "the people formerly known as the audience." The word definitely has the connotation of passivity, the opposite of engaged, active customers or constituents.

Beth Harte said...

Amber, I agree with you 100%! That's why unconferences are becoming more popular. It's also why corporate management needs to understand that a blog isn't an online newsletter...because folks don't come back over & over again to hear all about your company. From now on, it's "who's your target community?" And if that can't be answered, it's an indication that a discussion around the merits of social media is necessary. Thanks for the brain candy!

sschablow said...

I think you're on to something. I prefer a more personal term, perhaps 'Asynchronous Communication Units.' Ha. Seriously, audience is defined as 'assembled spectators or listeners.' The Latin word audientia, root word audire "hear." Not very participatory. I think we need a new word. I just don't have the time to revisit the Latin and Greek dictionaries to come up with something plausible. So let's just throw out ridiculous ideas and see what sticks. Ummm. Hmmm. OK. How about 'particience'? OK, maybe not. Your turn. ;-)

I Can't Keep Up said...

I think your post underscores that the "old" way really was a passive form of marketing. Now companies and organizations are tasked with becoming "active" community members.

Tim Wood said...

I think you expose the misconception that most PR folks seems to have about the message on the web. It's all about the push AND PULL in order to have communication. Old media ways are largely push methods but that doesn't work in the web sphere. Essentially, since the web has leveled the playing field for a strategic message it also levels the playing field for communication regardless of "control"

08 July 2008

Audience is a Four-Letter Word

Used as a noun, the word audience means “The group of spectators at a public event; listeners or viewers collectively, as in attendance at a theater or concert; the persons reached by a…broadcast; public.”

I can’t stand the word “audience” when I’m talking about a company’s clients or customers. I’m not even crazy about those words, because they imply a one-way relationship. I prefer things like “community”. And I’ve caught myself using it, so I’m putting it on my list of four letter words that aren’t ok to use in business, and especially in marketing and social media. Here’s why.

Audiences are meant to listen and observe.
You go to a play or a seminar, and with the rare exception, you sit quietly and listen. The idea isn't to engage the performer or speaker, but to absorb and appreciate. That has it's place in the world, sure. But not when it comes to marketing and social media. Your community WANTS to engage with you and have the chance for exchange and conversation. It puts a human face on business and allows community members to feel like they're helping to build and steward the brands and businesses they love.

Audiences come for the performance, and usually only once.
How many times have you gone to a movie twice? A couple, perhaps, for the really incredible ones. Most times, an audience shows up, watches, goes home, and that's the end of their interaction with the performer. You want your community to be a constant - surrounding you and interacting with you, giving you feedback and connecting with you. You want them to come back, again and again, because you've given them reason to. Change your thinking from "audience" to "community", and they'll feel more welcome on your doorstep.

A bad audience review rarely changes the show.
If a broadway show gets panned, they just pull it or ride it out, but they don't rewrite it because someone didn't like it. The amazing thing about having a community is how they can - and should - help shape the ideas behind a company or product. (Stay tuned for a follow up post on great examples of this). Their engagement with you and the dialogue they welcome is gold; valuable information you can use to improve your product or service offerings based on the people who matter most - the ones that buy them!

So, I'm going to officially jettison the word "audience" from my marketing/social media lexicon. Do you agree with me? What other words do you think we need to retire or change given our interlinked and hyperlinked world?

Photo credit: Felipe Trucco
Zemanta Pixie

5 comments:

Connie Reece said...

In conference presentations I've been known to refer to "the people formerly known as the audience." The word definitely has the connotation of passivity, the opposite of engaged, active customers or constituents.

Beth Harte said...

Amber, I agree with you 100%! That's why unconferences are becoming more popular. It's also why corporate management needs to understand that a blog isn't an online newsletter...because folks don't come back over & over again to hear all about your company. From now on, it's "who's your target community?" And if that can't be answered, it's an indication that a discussion around the merits of social media is necessary. Thanks for the brain candy!

sschablow said...

I think you're on to something. I prefer a more personal term, perhaps 'Asynchronous Communication Units.' Ha. Seriously, audience is defined as 'assembled spectators or listeners.' The Latin word audientia, root word audire "hear." Not very participatory. I think we need a new word. I just don't have the time to revisit the Latin and Greek dictionaries to come up with something plausible. So let's just throw out ridiculous ideas and see what sticks. Ummm. Hmmm. OK. How about 'particience'? OK, maybe not. Your turn. ;-)

I Can't Keep Up said...

I think your post underscores that the "old" way really was a passive form of marketing. Now companies and organizations are tasked with becoming "active" community members.

Tim Wood said...

I think you expose the misconception that most PR folks seems to have about the message on the web. It's all about the push AND PULL in order to have communication. Old media ways are largely push methods but that doesn't work in the web sphere. Essentially, since the web has leveled the playing field for a strategic message it also levels the playing field for communication regardless of "control"

08 July 2008

Audience is a Four-Letter Word

Used as a noun, the word audience means “The group of spectators at a public event; listeners or viewers collectively, as in attendance at a theater or concert; the persons reached by a…broadcast; public.”

I can’t stand the word “audience” when I’m talking about a company’s clients or customers. I’m not even crazy about those words, because they imply a one-way relationship. I prefer things like “community”. And I’ve caught myself using it, so I’m putting it on my list of four letter words that aren’t ok to use in business, and especially in marketing and social media. Here’s why.

Audiences are meant to listen and observe.
You go to a play or a seminar, and with the rare exception, you sit quietly and listen. The idea isn't to engage the performer or speaker, but to absorb and appreciate. That has it's place in the world, sure. But not when it comes to marketing and social media. Your community WANTS to engage with you and have the chance for exchange and conversation. It puts a human face on business and allows community members to feel like they're helping to build and steward the brands and businesses they love.

Audiences come for the performance, and usually only once.
How many times have you gone to a movie twice? A couple, perhaps, for the really incredible ones. Most times, an audience shows up, watches, goes home, and that's the end of their interaction with the performer. You want your community to be a constant - surrounding you and interacting with you, giving you feedback and connecting with you. You want them to come back, again and again, because you've given them reason to. Change your thinking from "audience" to "community", and they'll feel more welcome on your doorstep.

A bad audience review rarely changes the show.
If a broadway show gets panned, they just pull it or ride it out, but they don't rewrite it because someone didn't like it. The amazing thing about having a community is how they can - and should - help shape the ideas behind a company or product. (Stay tuned for a follow up post on great examples of this). Their engagement with you and the dialogue they welcome is gold; valuable information you can use to improve your product or service offerings based on the people who matter most - the ones that buy them!

So, I'm going to officially jettison the word "audience" from my marketing/social media lexicon. Do you agree with me? What other words do you think we need to retire or change given our interlinked and hyperlinked world?

Photo credit: Felipe Trucco
Zemanta Pixie

5 comments:

Connie Reece said...

In conference presentations I've been known to refer to "the people formerly known as the audience." The word definitely has the connotation of passivity, the opposite of engaged, active customers or constituents.

Beth Harte said...

Amber, I agree with you 100%! That's why unconferences are becoming more popular. It's also why corporate management needs to understand that a blog isn't an online newsletter...because folks don't come back over & over again to hear all about your company. From now on, it's "who's your target community?" And if that can't be answered, it's an indication that a discussion around the merits of social media is necessary. Thanks for the brain candy!

sschablow said...

I think you're on to something. I prefer a more personal term, perhaps 'Asynchronous Communication Units.' Ha. Seriously, audience is defined as 'assembled spectators or listeners.' The Latin word audientia, root word audire "hear." Not very participatory. I think we need a new word. I just don't have the time to revisit the Latin and Greek dictionaries to come up with something plausible. So let's just throw out ridiculous ideas and see what sticks. Ummm. Hmmm. OK. How about 'particience'? OK, maybe not. Your turn. ;-)

I Can't Keep Up said...

I think your post underscores that the "old" way really was a passive form of marketing. Now companies and organizations are tasked with becoming "active" community members.

Tim Wood said...

I think you expose the misconception that most PR folks seems to have about the message on the web. It's all about the push AND PULL in order to have communication. Old media ways are largely push methods but that doesn't work in the web sphere. Essentially, since the web has leveled the playing field for a strategic message it also levels the playing field for communication regardless of "control"